We recently attended a briefing on sustainability and ICT from BT Global Services (BTGS). Of course there were the obligatory stories about data-centre consolidation, virtualisation and the use of video conferencing that have all led to a reduction in BTs carbon footprint and claimed cost reductions. However, BTGS was keen to offer a wider view of the companys efforts to improve its sustainability credentials and the additional spin-offs that come from adding intelligence and orchestration to its networks and systems.
The benefits of flexible working practices go beyond sustainability
BTGS is a services organisation, so it not only has a preponderance of knowledge workers who could in theory work from anywhere but it also has a large mobile workforce. While its not the same as a retail bank, a retailer or a manufacturer, where the majority of workers have to be on site or in store, commercial and public sector organisations are filled with back-office workers and sales forces that dont need to be tied to a fixed office location five days a week.
BTGSs Work Anywhere policy allows for flexible working and location independence. As a network provider and IT supplier, it has obvious economies of scale and capabilities that enable it to overcome some of the hurdles and objections to home working that characterise many organisations outside the IT sector. But even so, the benefits of enabling home working and location independence go beyond the 58 per cent reduction in carbon emissions, the 1.5 million journeys eliminated per year, and the consequent reduction in fuel and travel savings. The secondary benefits identified by BTGS included:
- 20 per cent improvement in productivity from home working compared to office-based workers
- reduced absenteeism
- greater staff retention especially among women returning from maternity leave
- recruitment benefits for workers attracted by flexible working policies
- reduction in office property costs.
BTGS is building a £100 million business around its Work Anywhere managed services. The target customers include the public sector, notably local government, where there are strong incentives to reduce property costs and carbon footprints while improving efficiency and productivity. The commercial sector has been slower to embrace flexible working for knowledge workers, but quick to implement field-force automation strategies. BTGS expects the adoption of flexible, location-independent working practices to increase in the commercial sector over time and sees potential in the UK, German, US and French markets.
Expanding virtualisation to customer-facing roles
As a network provider, BT is one of the vendors leading the movement towards IT and communications convergence in the workplace. Its now applying the technology to support home-shoring for its contact-centre agents. If you thought virtualisation was just about data centres and desktops, think again BT applies the term to contact centres. Using intelligence in the IP network and multi-channel access to its call centres and agents (email, instant messaging, self-service and voice), BT is able to support home workers in customer-facing roles.
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